Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wisdom Wednesday: Dairy

Dairy intolerance is usually due to incomplete digestion of lactose. Lactose, a disaccharide, is cleaved into one molecule of glucose and one of galactose by the enzyme lactase. Lactase is produced by the cells that line the brush border of the small intestine.

Lactase deficiency is often genetic but can also occur from any illness that damages the brush border of the small intestine. As noted in previous blogs, this single cell lining is replaced every 24-36 hours and requires significant amounts of bioavailable folic acid (5-MTHF). A third of the population has at least one genetic mutation that impairs the conversion of folic acid to 5-MTHF. Because this conversion also takes place in the brush border, a loop often occurs in which cell production is diminished so less folic acid is converted further diminishing cell production. The result is leaky gut.

Mayo Clinic states that lactose intolerance is “usually harmless but the symptoms may be uncomfortable.” The symptoms are diarrhea, nausea, sometimes vomiting, abdominal cramps, bloating, and gas. These are also the symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). While lactose intolerance is “harmless”, the medical profession believes that new drug development is vital to treating IBS. (See my blog “New Bowel Disorder Treatments Needed, FDA Says” posted on May 5, 2017)

Like any food sensitivity, tolerance for lactose varies from person to person. It is estimated that 75% of the world’s population has some degree of lactose intolerance.

Many dairy products contain very small amounts of lactose and can be tolerated by most people. Butter, because of its high fat content contains about 0.1 grams of lactose in 3.5 ounces. Hard cheeses also have a low lactose content. This is because the bacteria used to ferment the cheese eats the lactose. The longer the cheese is aged, the less the lactose content. Parmesan, Swiss, and Cheddar all have very low lactose content. Yogurt, another fermented dairy product is also very low in lactose.

Whey protein powders can be an issue as the lactose is contained in the whey. However, whey concentrate is usually about 80% protein which limits the lactose levels. Both whey isolates and whey hydrolysates are very low in lactose content.

Kefir and Heavy cream are also contain very little lactose.

Remember when I started this series by stating that the immune system reacts to incompletely digested proteins or carbohydrates, but not the fats? Dairy protein can also cause food sensitivities. The two most common proteins in cow’s milk are labeled as A1 and A2. A1 generally is the culprit in dairy protein sensitivities. Recently, the dairy industry began producing A2 milk. Although it contains normal levels of lactose, removing the A1 protein will alleviate symptoms for many people who thought they were lactose intolerance. Infants are often sensitive to A1 protein but tend to outgrow this “allergy” by age one as their bodies develop the capacity to digest the protein completely. However, by age 5 they often have difficulty with milk products because of the protein or lactose.

The Bottom Line:
Dairy intolerance is a common issue, only surpassed by wheat intolerance. You can avoid dairy completely and concentrate on dark leafy vegetables for your calcium intake. However, many of us will tolerate dairy products like hard cheese and yogurt that are naturally low in lactose.

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